© Geoff Brookes
The Winnipeg Jets are now a contending team. They are good enough to compete for the Stanley Cup.
However, they are still vulnerable the injuries. Back to back losses to Chicago and Minnesota illustrated how much the Jets missed their three injured forwards.
Also, some matchups seem to present difficulties for the Jets – top echelon teams with strong skating and puck possession.
The Jets are a young team, and generally lack playoff experience.
As Chuck wrote, adding some players well before the trade deadline could give the Jets a confidence boost – that team management is going “all in” for a deep playoff run.
But what players are out there? And what can the Jets do, realistically?
It will likely surprise many Jets fans that the team is almost a cap team right now…. I’ll pause to let that sink in.
Based on cap geek, with some extra calculations for player bonuses, minus Scheifele’s time on the Injured Reserve, I estimate that the Jets have about $5 million in cap space. However, that can pay for about $12 million in annual salaries right now, or about $24 million at the deadline, because the Jets would only be paying the remaining part of the acquired players’ salaries.
But the real problem is the lack of available “rental” players. Most players re-up with their existing teams well before their contracts are due to expire. The players that are still available at this time of year are generally older players, or have had some kind of issues in the past (Hello Evander).
This problem is compounded by the incredible parity in the NHL. In the league’s two best divisions, there are no teams – zero! – that are out of playoff contention. Nada. Teams in playoff contention don’t generally trade away talent.
So the already short list of players with expiring contracts becomes shorter still. As of now, there are only 5 teams in the Atlantic division and 3 teams in the Pacific division that are clearly out of the playoff pool.
And then there are the players on that short list who have “no trade/no move” clauses. Generally they can be traded only to a short list of teams that they provided to their team last summer. It’s possible, but maybe unlikely, that such players would accept a trade to the Jets. Would Tavares (no trade clause) accept a trade to the Jets as a rental player? Would the Islanders trade him, while they are still in contention? Not likely.
There are a few talented, young pending UFA’s like Athanasiou, with Detroit. From my reading, the Wings really like him. They signed him to a cheap 1 year deal in October, to keep him on board. My guess is that the Wings will work out their cap hit problems (quick phone call to the Coyotes), and they’ll resign Mr. A.
What about players not on expiring contracts? With player contracts of 2 years or more, you really have to love what you’re getting, from a value perspective. If the contract is more than what you would want to pay for that player, there’s really no point. The Jets will definitely be a cap team next year, or the year after that. Bad contracts don’t work on a cap team!
With all of that said, what’s left?
I have identified the Jets needs as (1) a depth centre, and (2) a back-up (or depth) goalie.
And the survey says:
- Tomas Plekanec (Centre, Canadiens)
- Antti Raanta (Goalie, Arizona)
Caveat – I have not heard anyone say these names in trade rumour talks. This is purely speculation based on my own research.
Plekanec – strong defensive Centre, good puck possession stats, good face-off guy. Old – 35. Can still play, but on the back 9. Doesn’t fit with likely rebuild in Montreal. Playoff experience. Formerly a good scoring/playmaking centre, with 16 points so far this year.
Quiet, well-respected player, liked by coaches. Likes to play a simple game. Current annual cap hit – $6M, actual current salary is $5M. When Jets are healthy, Would slot in Jets third or fourth lines at centre. Hendricks could be depth at centre or play wing. Likely cost – second round draft pick and/or a medium prospect. Cost reflects reduced value due to Plekanec’s age and rental status.
Raanta – I have no idea whether the Coyotes would trade Raanta, but maybe a team that seems to be rebuilding perpetually would do it for the right price.
Raanta has been a highly regarded “young” goalie, but he is now 28 years old, so it’s time for him to really make his mark in the NHL. It’s not that the former backup to Lundqvist has been bad – he has a .917 career save Percentage, and the same .917 for the Coyotes this year. It’s just that he hasn’t established himself as a leading NHL goalie quite yet. Could use a role with the Jets to show that he is a great NHL goalie, should all-star Hellebuyck falter or tire.
Would help prevent “Bucky” from being worn out when the playoffs arrive. Cost – probably a third round pick and/or a middle prospect, again taking into account Raanta’s expiring contract. Contract/cap hit – $1M.
A word about Hutchinson- I am not a Hutch “hater”. He’s been spectacular at the AHL level, but he’s been inconsistent with the Jets. If the Jets are going all in, they could use the extra depth in net. If either Bucky or Aunty get injured, Hutch can be the depth goalie.
What these moves would do for the Jets – especially if done well before the deadline:
- send a message that the Jets are all in for this year. Improve morale.
- Improve depth at key Centre and goalie positions
- Enhance the competition for jobs at forward
- Bolster playoff experience
The Jets’ management have worked hard to get the team to the point of being a contender. It’s time to spend a little of their organizational capital to put them over the top!
03 Jan. 2016: Winnipeg Jets (27) Nikolaj Ehlers in action during a game against the Anaheim Ducks played at the Honda Center in Anaheim. CA. (Photo By John Cordes/Icon Sportswire)
© Chuck Duboff
- There are 36 games left in the regular season…Jets have a very favourable schedule with both a ten game homestand in February and a six game home stand in March.
- But…and this is big…when you look at the divisional standings…it’s great to see the Jets in first place with 59 points. However…Nashville has 58 with 3 games in hand AND Chicago is in last place with 50 points; seven teams in the fifty point range…it’s going to be a battle right down to the last home game of the year vs. Chicago.
- Is it me or were the Jets playing more sound hockey when Poolman and Charoit were the third pairing? I like both Toby and Buff, but there is something a lot different when those two are on the ice. We need Buff to play a simple, sound game…you’ve passed the torch to Trouba and Morrissey, let them be the offence coming out of our zone.
- Lots of speculation online that the Jets are trying to find a centre to trade for. Our top three of Scheif, Little and Lowry are solid…but, and all due respect to Hendricks, we won’t go far in the playoffs with him as our fourth centre. We need a solid second or third line centre to have a chance to damage in the playoffs.
- Ask yourself…is this the season the Jets have to go for it? Our window of opportunity, before everybody is asking for and is entitled to, big raises, is small…
- So, I would suggest, if the team continues to play at a high level, and is near the top of the standings, it is incumbent upon Chevy to make a trade or two to help us make a serious run in the playoffs.
- Getting both Lowry and Tanev back this weekend will be huge. Lowry is a force along the boards and has learned his role on the power play very well, not to mention his penalty killing. Meanwhile, we have missed the energy with Tanev brings to the team…he’s a buzzsaw and we have missed that.
- What do we do with our goaltending if, in fact, Mason is suffering from concussion symptoms again? Do we go with Hutch as the backup or does Chevy try and find a veteran goalie to backup Bucky?
- Is Jack Roslovic ready for the big show? I thought he held his own last week and didn’t look out of place. I’d certainly put him ahead of both Matthias and Dano.
- What will this city be like if both the Jets and Moose go on long playoff runs? It will be night after night after night of excitement at Bell MTS Place…just imagine if they both go for a long run into late May…and dare we dream, June?
- Can Ehlers and Laine continue to light the lamp at the pace they are at right now? Getting 35-40 goals out of both of them would be great….
- I see a more determined than ever Mark Scheifele returning to the lineup and leading this team.
- Not sure what we do with Wheels…looks great a centre, but if we can get a top line centre, then put Wheels back on the wing…that only makes us a deeper team.
- These next four games before the All-Star break and before we start our long homestand…Calgary, Vancouver, San Jose and Anaheim…if we get a split, go 2-2, I will be satisfied. My real biggest concern is the games in hand which Nashville has…they can really pull away, though they are dealing with some serious injuries.
- I’d love to see Chevy rid himself of the Ultra-Conservative label (TSN) and pull a David Poile…pull off a block buster trade weeks before the trade deadline on February 26. Poile always seems to make a big trade before the trade market has heated up…and by doing so gets a jump on other teams and gets Nashville deep into the playoffs.
- Home ice advantage…we gotta pile up the points while we can in order to finish higher in the standings and get home ice for the playoffs!!
- Is this the year to go for it? I would say yes…it’s year 7, the draft and develop plan has worked and we are in position to make a serious run; it’s time to be bold Chevy and show the players that you believe a Stanley Cup run is possible!!